House of Commons Hansard #23 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was chair.


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7:45 p.m.


Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Chair, I appreciate the hon. member's persistence on this point, but I think he ought to be, as every member of the House ought to be, focused on democratizing, stabilizing, rebuilding the lives of Haitians and moving forward. We have to put every ounce of our effort and resources behind that as a country and as part of our multilateral efforts.

I really do not believe it is constructive or helpful for us to be focusing any of those efforts on investigative work when in fact there are people dying or whose lives are torn apart. We can be part of the solution as opposed to navel gazing and trying to find sources of problems in the last several weeks. In fact, we can be part of a brighter future, a more democratic and stable future for the people of Haiti.

I know the hon. member shares those Canadian values of democracy, rule of law and equality. Since he shares those values and treasures them as a Canadian, he ought to, as a Canadian legislator, be working to help the people of Haiti such that they can take for granted in many ways as we do those fundamental values. I would ask that he support the efforts, which I know he would, of the Canadian government to try to work with other countries who share those values, to help the people of Haiti achieve that stability and democracy.

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7:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Bob Mills Canadian Alliance Red Deer, AB

Mr. Chair, it is a privilege to speak on this subject.

I want to talk about three things. They will be a little different from what other people have talked about.

First, I want to talk a little about take note debates; second, I would like to talk about my experience with Haiti; and third, I would like to talk about the adopted children who are in Haiti. There are a great many people in central Alberta, and in Alberta generally, who I have been dealing with to try and help expedite the adopted children leaving Haiti. I think these are three areas that are worthy of a few minutes, rather than talking about the military and some of the other issues.

I arrived here some 11 years ago. Shortly after my arrival as the foreign affairs critic, we had a take note debate. The take note debate was similar in attendance to what we have here tonight. It was rather shocking for me because I thought that I came here to present a point of view, to debate an issue, and to talk about what I thought my constituents wanted. I thought that people would be listening, and people would respond and react to the kinds of things that they would hear in this House.

Instead, what I found with take note debates was that they are exactly that. We talk to ourselves, and possibly to the T.V. cameras, and maybe someone out there is listening to our point of view about a certain subject. I find it very frustrating and a poor way to do it.

At that time, I developed a concept. Why do we not have a real take note debate, where we spend the first third part of the debate bringing in experts to tell parliamentarians what the details are of the issue? Then we spend the next third of the debate with the critics from each party, maybe two from each party, presenting their point of view of the particular subject. Then the third part would be an actual free vote where we would vote about things that really mattered as they pertained to that subject. That seemed to me like a real way to do it democratically and to make these take note debates meaningful.

Instead, we come sincerely, on all sides of the House, to present our points of view, but I really question how much of that is heard or really valued.

I again put that forward as a concept and hopefully our new Prime Minister will look at the democratic deficit and review take note debates so that they actually become meaningful.

The second subject is about Haiti itself. As the foreign affairs critic, I travelled with Mr. Axworthy, then foreign affairs minister, to Haiti during the last revolt and got a chance to visit pretty well the entire country. I was pretty shocked by what I saw. I was shocked by the poverty. I was shocked by the lack of clean water, health care, and the very basic needs that human beings should have.

I went on patrol with our troops. I will probably never forget the dedication of those police and military who were there--great young men and women--but I was shocked by what we saw. We walked down a lane and all of a sudden we knew people were watching us, something was watching us. Of course, the military took some pleasure out of shining their lights and seeing a bunch of rats standing on their hind legs, literally ready to come after us. It certainly impressed upon me the situation in that poor country. It also made me think that we must do something better.

We met with some parliamentarians. One of their major concerns was what kind of new parliament building they could build. And yet, on the streets at night were the kinds of things that we saw.

I look at that country, as well, coming from a tourist industry background, and I say it has everything. It has been deforested and so on. But it really has the beaches, the climate, and the weather. It has great potential. And of course, there is the politics, the history of the lack of law and order, and the destruction that has occurred in that sad country.

At that time I was very impressed with the fact that Canada was involved in the training of police by police forces from across the country. We had a school for judges where we tried to teach the rule of law. We had teachers and professors who were trying to show them how to develop an education system. And we had the health people who were trying to establish some semblance of a normal health care system.

I have to wonder what happened because we are back to almost square one or even worse with the kinds of events that we have seen on television.

When we talk about Haiti and places like that, we cannot just say we are going to send some troops and they will be there for three months. We need to talk about how we could rebuild a country like that so that it would be sustainable, so we do not have to go back again and start from square one.

That becomes an issue for Canadian parliamentarians. We are naturals in terms of helping Haiti. The language there is French and that gives us a step up in that area.

The third issue deals with the orphans who have been adopted by many Canadian parents. I am aware of 28 such parents and many of them I am sure are watching this debate tonight.

The people in foreign affairs and immigration have been fantastic to work with. They have phoned me at 7:00 a.m. They have phoned me on a Sunday night. They have communicated with me above and beyond the call of duty. I certainly appreciate that and I commend them in the House and trust that hopefully they might read Hansard to hear that they were commended. I will not mention names but there are two outstanding people who will know who they are that work in Citizenship and Immigration Canada who have helped and kept us informed.

My job has been to inform these parents. I have letters from typical parents, and again I will not use their names without permission, from my constituency of Red Deer. They have been involved in the adoption of a baby in Haiti and they have an adoption number. Everything has been done except a release by the Haitian government. Some have been waiting months and some have been waiting longer to have that piece of paper signed.

I totally understand why the Canadian government cannot go in and take those children out of the orphanage and take them out of the country. However, I would implore the government to do everything in its power to get those papers signed to release those children and get them out to safety so that these parents could pick them up.

That is an issue that I am not sure anyone else has talked about, but it is a very important issue. Many of these adoptive parents are in Quebec. I am aware of 28 of them and there are seven in my riding who I have been working with on this issue.

Our troops are going there to stabilize a difficult situation. I would urge them, and I know this will be high on their priority list, to help these parents to get these very young babies out of the country so that they can come to Canada and have a new life.

In conclusion, I thank the government for that part of it. I am glad we are going there, but let us look at the long term of what we can do.

Then, let us take a look at take note debates because my opinion is the same as the Prime Minister's. I believe that members of Parliament do have a right to make their voices heard. Parliament should be the centre of national debate on policy. I would like to see that happen here so that we could actually vote on sending our troops places and express these kind of concerns that exist across the country.

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8 p.m.


Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Chair, I have a question for the hon. member which is similar to the one I put to the member for Kings—Hants.

Given the grave concerns that have been raised about the circumstances which led to the removal of President Aristide from Haiti, does the hon. member agree with the call by Caricom, including the chair of CARICOM, Prime Minister P.J. Patterson of Jamaica, for an international independent inquiry into the circumstances that led to the removal of President Aristide?

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8 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Bob Mills Canadian Alliance Red Deer, AB

Mr. Chair, I have a little trouble answering that question. I am not the foreign affairs critic now; I am the environment critic. I cannot put forward my party's position, but I will put forward my position as the member of Parliament for Red Deer.

Having been to Haiti under difficult circumstances, I was not very impressed with Mr. Aristide and his administration. I do not feel that Papa Doc did a very good job. I do not think Baby Doc did a much better job. I think that poor country has been subject to dictators and has been very lacking in democracy.

I do not dislike the French and the Americans for trying to bring stability in the best way possible. It seemed to me, again looking from the outside, that the only way to stabilize that country was in fact to remove Mr. Aristide.

I think that his removal was for his own benefit and that of his family. I do not believe he would have survived staying there.

Whether it was done, as the member might put it, by force or whether it was done voluntarily, I would trust the authorities who did it. It was in the best interests of the people of Haiti. It has been stabilized now and there is increasing stability. I do not really see that an inquiry, another attack on France or the Americans, would accomplish anything for those children or the people of Haiti.

Let us stabilize the place. Let us get it back and teach the people democracy, law and order and help their judicial system. That will do a heck of a lot more than wasting our money on an inquiry into something where there could be many points of view and could be seen as simply an attack on the United States of America.

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8 p.m.


Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Chair, it is interesting to see that both the governing Liberal Party and the Conservative Party agree on getting at the truth through an independent international inquiry.

I found it extraordinary that the Conservative member of Parliament would now be saying that he agrees that it was absolutely essential that Aristide be overthrown in order to bring stability to Haiti. So much for democracy.

The fact of the matter is that President Aristide was elected with the support of well over 80% of the people of Haiti in 2000. When did the United States, France, and indeed Canada take unto themselves the power to decide which democratically elected leader should be overthrown? What are the criteria? Is the criterion respect for fundamental human rights? Is Canada then suggesting we should be overthrowing the repressive regimes in countries such as Colombia in this hemisphere, or Turkey?

What gives the United States the power to decide that President Aristide was expendable and should be removed from office? Is it in fact the member's position that it was entirely appropriate for France, the United States, and presumably Canada to ensure the overthrow of a democratically elected president of Haiti?

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8:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Bob Mills Canadian Alliance Red Deer, AB

Mr. Chair, if we were to ask the Americans or the French I would bet the last place they want to be is Haiti. I think it was strictly a matter of the situation deteriorating. The UN identified it as a critical site as there was killing going on. We could examine the deterioration; from some of the people I have talked to, we could ask if it was in fact a true democracy in 2000. I do not think too many people would agree that it was a true democracy in the year 2004. It was an appeal by the international community.

The parents I represent and am talking about here were pleading for somebody to go there to stop the shooting and killing around the orphanages. There are gangs of thugs, some of them representing Mr. Aristide, shooting and killing people. For the most part, these parents were pretty happy to hear that U.S. marines were offshore and that they were landing and stabilizing the situation in a very democratic way. It is tough to be the policeman of the world; it is a tough position to be in. Many of the people I have talked to are very glad that the marines went there.

Of course, as I said, Canada has a unique position, particularly in the linguistic and historical areas and in the fact that we have many Haitians here, particularly in the Montreal area and in Calgary. They are asking us to please stabilize their homeland and get it to a place where they can go and visit their relatives and feel safe and secure. I do not see the bad guys as much as the hon. member does. I see it as a stabilizing and very welcome effort by the Americans, the French and now the Canadians.

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March 10th, 2004 / 8:05 p.m.


Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Chair, we heard the same argument about stability, of course, when Pinochet overthrew the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende of Chile and we are hearing similar arguments with respect to Venezuela now, which is very dangerous.

I have a brief question for my hon. colleague. He has talked about the importance of assisting the poor, and particularly children, in Haiti. Yet since 2002 CARICOM has been pleading with the United States to stop its devastating economic embargo on Haiti. The United States was systematically blocking previously approved loans to Haiti and CARICOM foreign ministers were urging the United States to release those funds. To quote from their plea: “They stressed that the prompt release of such funds was critical if a catastrophe were to be avoided in that country”.

Where was the hon. member? Where was his party in calling for the release of those desperately needed resources to assist the people of Haiti, resources which were being blocked by the United States, even though CARICOM, in the region, was urging that they be released? That contributed more to poverty and more to injustice, affecting children and others in Haiti, than anything else that has happened in that country for many, many years.

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8:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Bob Mills Canadian Alliance Red Deer, AB

Mr. Chair, this is sort of déjà vu, because I remember debating 10 years ago with the same member on the same issues. Basically he knows my position on embargos and knows that they do not work very well. Particularly in areas like that, they do not work at all. We just do not have enough ships and control to be able to prevent them.

An embargo on a place like Haiti is not the reason that there is a problem today. The problem today is the deterioration of the very social fabric of the country and that is what I would hope we are dedicated to returning. I would hope that in this debate tonight, the Prime Minister--if he hears it--will hear that we want to return that social stability, the rule of law, safety for citizens, education, and all those factors that make it that way. We must also not forget to get those orphan kids to their Canadian parents as soon as possible.

To get into what should have been and what might have been, nobody is always right and wrong on these issues. I am sure the Americans made mistakes and I am sure that Aristide made mistakes, but I do not think we are here to solve that tonight.

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8:10 p.m.


Robert Lanctôt Liberal Châteauguay, QC

Mr. Chair, you know that the political situation in Haiti has been in the media headlines for some weeks now. As Canadians and Quebeckers, we have all followed the story attentively. As a member of Parliament, I have taken an even greater interest.

The Government of Canada is very sensitive to issues affecting the other francophone country in the Americas and does not believe that we can isolate ourselves from what is happening within its borders. Like Canada, Haiti is a member of a number of international organizations including the Francophonie, the Organization of American States and the United Nations.

Moreover, there are many people of Haitian origin living in Canada, particularly in and around Montreal. The Canadian government wants to support them and has a very special interest in what happens in Haiti. Canada, as an active member of the international community, is aware of the fact that the continuing problems in that country pose great risks to its citizens. That is why we responded firmly to the pleas for intervention.

I believe that all members would agree that the Canadian government could not ignore the calls to help restore peace in Haiti. I am very proud of the Canadian government's initiatives on this. They are aimed at restoring calm and order in the capital, Port-au-Prince, and all over the country, through our participation in the United Nations Multinational Interim Force.

Canada's commitment goes beyond simple emergency measures, because we want to ensure that the conditions exist that would allow a true democratic culture to blossom in Haiti. Creating a real democracy is a long-term process and will require a sustained international presence.

The Canadian government's commitment is serious and responsible, since we want to ensure that the new regime is stable and that we will not witness a new series of coups d'état and autocratic regimes in Haiti. We are working with the international community and the local population to ensure that this sad page of Haitian political history is truly finished and that a new page, written in the language of democracy, will be started today.

On March 5, the Minister of National Defence announced that the Canadian Forces would deploy some 450 soldiers to Haiti. These soldiers will be active members of the United Nations Multinational Interim Force. The Canadian contingent will be supported in its mission by six helicopters.

The Canadian Forces are already involved in many areas throughout the world, including in Afghanistan, but the Chief of Defence Staff has indicated that the Canadian Forces can play a key role in Haiti without compromising their other commitments and obligations in Canada and abroad.

The mandate of the interim force is to restore safe living conditions in Haiti. They will have to restore order within the law enforcement agencies and the interim government. Guaranteeing public safety is the cornerstone of the constitutional process that would restore a democratic government in Haiti.

If the citizens of Haiti are in constant fear for their safety, they will not be able to help build a new political system. Each and every one of them needs to take part in the debates, because the principles of equality and universality lie at the very heart of democratic values.

Canadian troops will serve alongside their counterparts from various countries to ensure that fear, intimidation or uncertainty are not used to exclude anyone from the process.

Canada has also provided financial assistance to this Caribbean nation. On February 20, Canada announced that it was granting an additional $5 million to the special mission of the Organization of the American States in Haiti. Just yesterday, the Minister for International Cooperation announced that Canada has pledged another $5 million in support of the United Nations humanitarian assistance, reconstruction and transition efforts in Haiti. This money complements the $1.95 million already announced for humanitarian assistance since the current crisis began.

Canada responded strongly to the call of the people of Haiti and the international community.

The mandate of the UN interim multinational force in Haiti is about three-month long. However, Canada realizes that this short period will not allow to establish a representative and functional democracy in that country shaken by several years of political, economic and social instability, which only intensified in the last weeks. A long-term commitment is required. Here again, Canada is taking its responsibilities.

The UN Secretariat was given a period of at least one month to define the options for the follow-on forces. These will be in place at the end of the three-month mandate undertaken by the interim force.

Canada will play a leadership role in this follow-on mission. We will not simply stay timidly in the background while others make decisions. We will be key players. Canada's ability to act in a crisis is recognized internationally, particularly through its participation in Afghanistan, the Balkans and Africa. We will bring our experience and effectiveness to help the people of Haiti during these times of upheaval.

Since the beginning of the crisis, Canada has shown support for a political agreement that would come from a wide consensus among representatives of the Haitian government, opposition political parties and the civil society. Our action during the months to come will seek to create and maintain the conditions that are needed to articulate and implement such a consensus within the political and social structures of that country.

Canadians and Quebeckers will be there to allow the emergence of a stable democracy in Haiti. Our troops will not leave the country at the first opportunity, but will stay until the satisfactory completion of that mandate. The Prime Minister clearly said that Canada will play a major role in the follow-on mission.

Canada intends to take multilateral action in Haiti. We will work in conjunction with the United Nations, the Organization of American States and the Caribbean Community and Common Market, CARICOM, to help Haiti find lasting solutions to the recent crisis.

This spirit of cooperation we are witnessing in the international community in response to the dire need of one of our members is clear proof of our commitment to democratic values. Multilateralism works when each member's participation is recognized and considered valid. This message of inclusion is something we hope to develop within Haitian society and its political institutions.

Our country has long taken multilateral action in Haiti. In 1994, we actively participated in the international US-led force and, later, in the UN mission to Haiti. From 1993 to 2001, Canada sent police officers to help Haitians restore democracy, stability and the rule of law.

Our activities abroad, in Haiti and elsewhere, always aim to promote a reliable justice system, full recognition for human rights, economic development and the establishment of a civil society.

Yesterday, His Excellency Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations, gave an important speech in the House of Commons. He reminded us that the international community will need to make a decisive contribution to buttress Haiti's democratic institutions. He said, “Only through a long term commitment to help the country can stability and prosperity be assured. Half-hearted efforts of the past have been insufficient. We cannot afford to fail this time”. Through initiatives recently announced, Canada is answering this call.

Haiti is facing enormous challenges. It remains one of the poorest countries in the Americas.

The Canadian government recognized well before the current crisis that peace and democratic development could not be maintained without sustainable and equitable economic development in that country. To that end, in 2002-03, our official development assistance to Haiti totalled $23.85 million. This is the largest assistance program provided to any country in the Americas. We have also contributed $3.25 million to the Organization of American States Special Mission since its inception in March 2002; $500,000 of this contribution has been given to the Agence intergouvernementale de la Francophonie.

I reiterate my support for all the actions taken by the Canadian government in Haiti in response to the recent crisis. These measures are in place to continue the commitment made many years ago to this country in the West Indies to promote democracy and sustainable development. This commitment has intensified following the events of the past weeks.

We are currently at a critical time in Haiti's history. In the short term, Canadian troops will help restore order so that democracy can truly take hold. In the long term, our commitment, together with our international partners, will be the gauge of success of these initiatives.

I am proud that the Government of Canada is taking its responsibilities multilaterally, based on current information and with an eye to the future. This will be the key to a happy ending in Haiti, and Canada will be able to proudly say that it made a significant contribution and took a leadership role that was very fitting under the circumstances.

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8:20 p.m.


Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Chair, what has happened in Haiti is a tragedy. It is a tragedy for democracy, for the Haitian people and for President Aristide. What has taken place is a coup d'état, the 33rd in the tragic history of that country, the poorest country in our hemisphere.

The elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, has stepped down. He was forced out by France and the United States in an absolutely undemocratic, unjust and illegal manner. The CARICOM countries, the Caribbean countries, have demanded an independent international investigation into all of the circumstances surrounding the abduction of President Aristide. We in the NDP wholly support CARICOM in this.

What has happened in Haiti is an outrage. The trampling of democracy, ignoring international law, ignoring the pleas of CARICOM, the OAS and indeed President Aristide himself for assistance in resisting the brutal overthrow of his regime by those who had been trying since he was first elected in 1991 to overthrow that regime, the remnants of the Tonton Macoute, the thugs in the paramilitary, the drug dealers and others.

Instead of Canada responding to that call for assistance from the democratically elected President Aristide, we stood by, silent, complicit in the overthrow of his government.

Let it be clearly understood that CARICOM and the OAS put to President Aristide and to the rebels a plan that would have involved power sharing some days before the presidents overthrow. That plan was accepted by President Aristide, but it was rejected out of hand by the rebels. What happened then is shameful. Effectively the Americans, the French, hung President Aristide out to dry.

Therefore, we want to know what was Canada's position in those days leading up to the overthrow of President Aristide. Just as important, what was Canada's position some time before that?

For example, in late January 2003 the then Secretary of State for Latin American and Africa hosted a summit in Ottawa of la francophonie. It included France, representatives of the European Union and the United States to consider the Haitian crisis. Haiti was not even invited to that summit.

We subsequently learned through selected leaks by the minister that consideration was given then to regime change, to the overthrow of President Aristide, one year before it actually took place.

I am calling today for the tabling in the foreign affairs committee the minutes of that summit to let Canadians know exactly what role was played by our government at that summit and to what extent we were even then laying the groundwork, along with the United States and France, for the overthrow of President Aristide.

As well, let it be clearly understood that the opposition to the democratically elected president was funded to a significant extent by the United States. Certainly a number of American congress people have made that point very clearly, as have human rights groups such as MADRE and others.

Perhaps most significant in terms of the desperate poverty of the Haitian people is the fact that since 2002 CARICOM was pleading with the United States to release economic aid and previously approved loans to Haiti. In fact CARICOM foreign ministers made it very clear that unless those funds were released, Haiti faced catastrophe. They stated in 2002 that the actions taken by President Aristide at that time were in the right direction and that the release of funds would assist. They said that not doing this could lead to a deteriorating situation. The United States refused. It kept that devastating economic embargo which had such a destructive impact on the poverty of the people of Haiti, on the poorest of the poor, just as of course it has maintained an illegal embargo, an inhumane embargo on the people of Cuba.

This is a very important point because certainly Canada has stated that we support “a political resolution along the lines of the CARICOM-OAS action plan”. However, do we now support the call by CARICOM for an independent international inquiry into all the circumstances that led to the removal of President Aristide from office? What is Canada's position on that? I asked a question of a former Liberal minister, the member of Parliament from Edmonton. He said that he supported the call. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister for Canada-U.S. said that he did not support the call.

What is the position of the Liberal government with respect to the call for an independent international inquiry into the circumstances that led to the removal of President Aristide?

I hope that the Bloc Quebecois will support this call for an international investigation into all the circumstances surrounding the illegal kidnapping in Haiti of President Aristide. I have not yet heard the Bloc position on this very important matter.

What is very clear, however, is his insistence that he did not step down voluntarily. President Aristide was forced to relinquish power by France and the United States.

We also, as New Democrats, condemn the position that is taken by the United States with respect to the repatriation of refugees, which is clearly in violation of the 1952 convention on refugees. What has happened in Haiti is a tragedy. It is also illegal, and we know the United States participated in similar actions in Venezuela in the past.

In conclusion, the NDP calls for the American forces to be replaced by a peacekeeping mission under UN auspices; as soon as feasible, the deployment of an international force mandated to disarm the paramilitaries and destroy the numerous arms caches; a long term solution that would be viable politically and economically for the problems in Haiti, this to include reparations. Noam Chomsky has written eloquently on the matter of reparations and their importance, particularly reparations by France.

We also call for Canadian support and participation in transparent and honest elections in Haiti; a return to full and complete democracy, which would be followed immediately by release of the $650 million in economic and medical aid to the Haitian government the United States continues to block; long term Canadian and international aid on the financial level in the form of training for a professional Haitian police force, and the international investigation I have already referred to into the circumstances surrounding the forced resignation of Mr. Aristide.

This coup d'état must be condemned by Canadians, by the Canadian government, and we want to know exactly what the role of the Canadian government was in this illegal coup.

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8:30 p.m.


Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Chair, I appreciate the opportunity to take part in this very important debate this evening.

As the Minister of National Defence has stated, this issue truly is of vital importance to Haiti and to the international community. It is an issue which we cannot afford to ignore or walk away from, and our government is not walking away. We are taking action where action is needed.

In the last 50 years, the Canadian Forces have been involved in numerous peacekeeping operations of one kind or another. Their experience, expertise and professionalism are second to none and recognized throughout the world.

In his speech to Parliament yesterday, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan praised Canada's ongoing support to the United Nations and our involvement in UN peacekeeping operations. It should come as no surprise that the international community is looking to Canada to participate in the United Nations mandated multinational interim force to help bring peace and stability to Haiti.

Canada has traditionally had very close ties with Haiti and it is a connection that continues today. We therefore have a strong sense of responsibility to do our part to help that country. At the same time we also have the experience needed to make a difference. Here the record speaks for itself. The Canadian Forces have participated in military missions around the world, missions that have ranged from observing and peacekeeping to more robust combat operations. In recent years we have seen the Canadian Forces deployed to many trouble spots, in the Balkans, Rwanda, the Central African Republic, Angola and East Timor just to name a few.

Even more recently the Canadian Forces members have been in Afghanistan and the Arabian Gulf region, working with our allies in the fight against terrorism. In fact today in Kabul it is a Canadian, Lieutenant General Rick Hillier, who is in charge of the UN-mandated, NATO-led international security assistance force, better known as ISAF. In this role he is in command of some 6,000 troops.

This is a very prestigious position and a tremendous responsibility. The fact that General Hillier was appointed to this position is a testament to the tremendous respect the men and women of the Canadian Forces have earned within the international community, a respect they richly deserve.

That is only a brief summary of some of the experience that Canadian Forces bring to this mission, but more important, for the purposes of this debate, we need to look at their experience in Haiti.

Since the early 1990s, Canada has been involved in efforts to establish and restore democracy in Haiti. Indeed we have participated in several UN missions in that country.

For example, we were involved in the United Nations observer group for the verification of the elections in Haiti in 1990-91. From 1993 to 1994 we contributed a naval contingent to the Haiti embargo enforcement. Some 500 military personnel participated in the United Nations mission in Haiti from 1993 to 1996, helping to maintain a secure and stable environment. Between 1996 and 1997 we sent approximately 750 Canadian Forces personnel to the United Nations support mission in Haiti. In 1997 we contributed a military contingent of around 650 people to the United Nations transition mission in Haiti. While this was our last military deployment in Haiti, the Department of National Defence also assisted with the United Nations civilian police mission in Haiti from 1997 to 2000.

I believe that Canada has shown its commitment to Haiti and we are doing so again today. As our Prime Minister has emphasized, we are committed to helping rebuild Haiti. He has made it clear that the international community cannot afford to make the mistake of pulling out of this troubled nation prematurely.

Yesterday, the Secretary-General of the United Nations also pointed out that every member of the international community needs to provide assistance to this troubled nation. He added that only serious long term assistance would ensure Haiti's future stability and prosperity.

Canada's timely decision to deploy about 450 soldiers for a 90-day period is part of the global strategy of our government to find a sustainable solution to the problems facing Haiti and to restore peace and security in that country.

As Kofi Annan said yesterday, “Half-hearted efforts of the past have been insufficient. We cannot afford to fail this time”. I sincerely agree with this statement. I know Canadians also believe that we must take seriously our responsibility to help find a lasting and peaceful solution in Haiti.

The government recognizes that a lasting peace depends on more than just the provision of military forces. It depends on a combination of diplomacy, development, and defence, the three Ds that are vital to the long term rebuilding of this and any other troubled country. We are now taking action on all three fronts and are committed to continuing to do so. The Canadian Forces will be a vital part of the three D approach.

I join the Minister of National Defence in expressing my confidence in the ability of the Canadian Forces to carry out this important mission. I know that the forces will once again live up to their well-earned reputation as one of the most skilled, professional, and dedicated militaries in the world. They will help restore stability. They will assist in the delivery of humanitarian aid. They will support local police efforts, and in doing this, they will help make a brighter future for the Haitian people.

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8:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Leon Benoit Canadian Alliance Lakeland, AB

Mr. Chair, I rise today to speak unfortunately to a situation that is less than desirable, another violent coup d'état in Haiti. It is one of over 30 in its 200 years of existence. It is hard to imagine. Certainly we as Canadians have never faced this type of situation. We should be very thankful for that.

We have seen Canada once again commit our troops to overseas commitments. This time it is 450 troops to Haiti. Canadians believe it is important that we do that. Canadians really want Canada to be a country that can make commitments to deal with situations such as an overthrow of democratic regimes around the world, such as the overthrow of the Aristide regime in Haiti. It is important to Canadians that we have the capability to help in those situations.

Unfortunately, we are losing that capability all the time. In fact, this was a seat of the pants commitment. We have no coherent foreign policy any more. We have not had a new foreign policy white paper in 10 years. There is a lack of leadership on the part of the Prime Minister and the government. It is unimaginable that the government does not have plans for dealing with situations such as this one.

For that reason we have seen another situation where a commitment was made overnight without appropriate consultation. This is two months after the head of the army said we simply cannot commit more troops overseas. The head of the army said we cannot meet a new deployment to Afghanistan, that we will carry through on the commitment we have made, but we cannot continue that deployment at anywhere near the level of troops that we have in Afghanistan now. He said we simply cannot take on new tasks. Yet, the forces have to do what they are told. The government committed them to a new task whether they could handle it or not.

Who pays the price? It is our serving men and women in the Canadian Forces who pay the price. This is a shameful way to run a country. A ship without a captain and a crew would be the best comparison to the government when it comes to foreign policy, to our military and in fact when it comes to most things right now. The government is too busy answering to the scandals that it has been involved in. We are uncovering a new one almost every day.

What will Canada's role be in the next situation that comes up? We have made the commitment to Haiti of 450 troops. What will Canada's commitment be to the next situation that arises? We know there will be more. We live in a world that is more unstable than ever before.

When we ask the government the same question we cannot get an answer. There is no answer because the government does not have a foreign policy. This is completely unacceptable. Canadians expect more.

Canada's military pays the price again. In the past we have seen a very large commitment in the Persian gulf and for the war in Iraq. We have seen a very large commitment in Afghanistan. We still have troops committed to the Balkans. We still have commitments in many other places around the world. I believe there are some 21 commitments around the world.

Our troops are overstretched. They are being asked again and again to go into these situations without the proper equipment. That simply is not acceptable. Canadians know it is not acceptable. The government should know it is not acceptable.

It bothers me when I hear members, such as some members who have spoken here tonight, say that Canada has to do something. They say we have to be there to help. We have to deal with the situation where the democratic government has been overthrown. Yet those same people say we should not be spending money on our military. I want to know how Canada is supposed to help deal with situations such as this if we do not have proper resources in the military.

The Liberals have chopped more than 30% from the military funding in the 10 years they have been in government. The current Prime Minister was finance minister during the time that 30% was chopped from the military budget. Our troops are being asked to do more now than they have ever been asked to do since before the second world war. They are being asked to do more with less. They are being asked to do more with less money. They are being asked to do more with fewer troops.

We had 80,000 troops when this government took office back in 1993 and now we are down to 55,000 active troops. This is unacceptable. Some new equipment has been purchased by the military but, generally, the equipment is worse than it was when this government took office years ago. What would we expect when we see 30% cut from the budget? It is simply unacceptable. Yet the demands are more. We are reaching a crisis breaking point with the Canadian military.

We do have a tremendous resource in our military. We have well trained men and women who are as good as any in the world but they are near a breaking point. They simply cannot continue to meet commitment after commitment that the government has asked them to do.

If the government would make a commitment to spend the money necessary to rebuild and equip the military, to increase the strength to 80,000 again and to put a foreign policy in place, then we could respond very effectively to situations like this. We could help reinstate democracy. We could make long term commitments to countries like Haiti and hopefully help to bring about a long term solution to the problem so we do not have a coup every few years. However with the resources our military has been given, we simply cannot continue to do that.

As a result, Canada's relevance, when it comes to dealing with situations like this around the world, has been reduced dramatically and our reputation has been tarnished.

When we see Kofi Annan sitting here in the House of Commons, like we did just yesterday, saying that Canada is such an important player, I think he was talking about the Canada of 10 years ago. Quite frankly, the Canada of today cannot meet the commitments it should be meeting when it comes to situations like the one we currently have in Haiti, and that is a shame. That is something Canadians really do not like. The government has to understand that and has to start making a new commitment to rebuilding the military, which is such a key part of our foreign policy.

We simply cannot be players when democracies are thrown aside unless we have combat capable military forces to help stabilize the situation and then help keep the situation stable so that democratic regimes can be re-established. It is so important and we have so few resources left to do that. Our foreign policy void makes that more difficult.

Through all of this, I think Canadians generally know that the military budget being slashed by 30%, the number of members serving in the Canadian Forces being reduced from 80,000 down to 55,000 and our troops being sent over without proper equipment, is not proper and right.

Yet, through all of this, what do we see? We see the government spending $100 million on Challenger jets so that the Prime Minister and cabinet ministers can travel in luxury when our military is starved of the resources it needs to help deal with situations like Haiti.

Today the newest scandal has been uncovered: $90 million missing from military spending. The latest corruption scandal ripped $90 million from a military desperate for the resources it needs to handle a situation like Haiti. This is the latest in the scandal a day type situation the government is facing right now. That is inappropriate.

Canadians are upset by the lack of responsibility when it comes to spending their tax dollars. They are upset by the out and out corruption the government is involved in on an ongoing basis, and has been involved in over the last 10 years. More and more of that corruption is coming to the surface but, quite frankly, it does not help us in dealing with situations where we should be helping, such as the situation in Haiti.

What we need is new government in this country. We need a new government that will make the commitment necessary to the Canadian military, that will put in place a foreign policy so that we will know ahead of time what we are going to do in the next situation like Haiti, and there will be a next situation.

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8:45 p.m.

Yukon Yukon


Larry Bagnell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Chair, I wonder if the member could tell us what he knows about the document entitled “Northern Dimension of Canada's Foreign Policy”.

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8:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Leon Benoit Canadian Alliance Lakeland, AB

Mr. Chair, it has been 10 years since Canada put out a white paper on foreign affairs, and 10 years is too long. The last document is outdated. The military is nowhere near the position it was in 1994 when the last foreign affairs paper was put out.

I am not talking about a patch up document, like the one to which the member is referring. I am talking about a complete new white paper on foreign affairs. In other words, a white paper saying that this is what Canada should do in situations like this and this is what Canada should do in situations like that. The government needs to put forward the resources necessary, especially to the military, the police forces in some cases, namely our foreign service, and so on.

Our foreign policy is completely outdated with nothing new except a few patch up documents along the way, and the member knows that is what he is referring to.

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8:50 p.m.

Toronto Centre—Rosedale Ontario


Bill Graham LiberalMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Chair, I have listened with interest to the remarks of the hon. gentleman. I listened earlier to one of his colleagues speak about what happened in Haiti as being a regime change and that he regretted the fact that Canada had not been involved in regime change last time.

I was very interested by the member's stirring words about what his party would do if it had more armed forces. What is his party's theory on this? Are we going to go into a regime change by ourselves? Are we going to decide to do these things on our own? Would the hon. member help with this? What is his party's position? Does he believe that we need the United Nations to give legitimacy to what we do, or does he just believe that Canada and other countries can go off and use our military in any way in which they deem appropriate at any given particular moment in time?

Since he seems to be so anxious that we have a proper military, and he does not feel that this government has a foreign policy, which I certainly disagree with, where is the coherence in the policy of the party opposite on these issues?

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8:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Leon Benoit Canadian Alliance Lakeland, AB

Mr. Chair, I find it shocking that the Minister of Foreign Affairs would somehow indicate that we do not need a strong military to help carry out our foreign affairs policy. That is an absurd position for a foreign affairs minister to take. Quite frankly, I am baffled by that because part of what we do need in a foreign affairs policy is the ability to help stabilize situations such as the one in Haiti or the one in Afghanistan. I believe the minister was the Minister of Foreign Affairs when our troops were sent to Afghanistan. Why he would think the military is not an important part of what is needed to help carry out foreign policy absolutely baffles me.

In terms of what we want, we put out our own foreign policy paper because we have ideas as to what we should do. We have a plan. The leader of the former Canadian Alliance Party, and now a member of the new Conservative Party, myself as defence critic and our party put out a substantial document on the Canadian military and what it should be. That military would certainly be able to deal with the situation in Haiti and be an important part of that. It would certainly be able to meet commitments like that made in Afghanistan. It would certainly be able to meet the commitments that were made in the war on Iraq in the Persian Gulf. It would certainly be able to continue to meet commitments in the Balkans and situations like that.

It is absurd to think we could do any of that, that we would be relevant at all, if we do not have a military to help stabilize the situation so that a democratic regime can be put in place. I think that regime change is pretty important. When a democratic government is overthrown, it is quite important that we have a regime change to put in place, either that democratic government again or a different democratic government, at least to stabilize the situation. That is the kind of regime change that is productive and the kind of regime change I am sure the foreign affairs minister would support.

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8:50 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Chair, I think it was a bit of an insult to the Secretary General of the United Nations to say that he was not talking about Canada today, that he was factually incorrect to say that we do not have the defence to do anything.

We had General Leslie in the gallery the other day who received a huge applause. I would not say that was for doing nothing. That was for the tremendous contribution Canada is making in Afghanistan. I was there. We have roughly 2,000 troops and many other nations have 10, 20 or 30 troops in that particular community. We are providing an incredible role in peacekeeping. The general said that we save thousands and thousands of lives. I would not consider saving thousands of lives as doing nothing.

I want to ask the member about his policy. We have fairly close to a balanced budget. There is not a lot of spare cash. We still have a lot of child poverty. We have regions that are poorer than other regions and they need cash. We are putting in new programs for disabled people. Our aboriginal peoples have lower living standards and they have more deaths during childbirth.

What programs would the member take the money from to provide these largely increased levels of defence? He has not explained to the foreign affairs minister what he would use those increased levels of defence for.

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8:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Leon Benoit Canadian Alliance Lakeland, AB

Mr. Chair, I, as much as anybody in the House, am proud of what the Canadian military men and women can do. They can do that because they are good men and women. They make do with so little, so often, and they do. We should be proud of General Hillier who is heading up our troops in Afghanistan. He is a good man and well trained. In spite of the lack of funding on the part of the government and in spite of the equipment the troops have been forced to use, they do good work because they are good people and they are well trained. I am proud of them for that.

I am upset with the government. The member asked where the money will come from. How about $100 million coming from nonsense like buying new luxury jets for cabinet ministers? How about the $90 million, which we just found out about today, that was lost somehow in contracts at the Department of National Defence? How about the sponsorship program where, as far as we know, at least $100 million was paid to Liberal friends?

That is where we could get the money from. We stop paying money to Liberal friends. We have seen scandal after scandal in which the government has been involved.

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8:55 p.m.


Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Chair, I am pleased to take part in this take-note debate. It is always a good idea to have members of Parliament address issues like our missions abroad, treaty ratification and other such things that the Bloc feels are not only the prerogative of the executive but also need to be debated by the legislative power and Parliament.

Like most of our constituents, as was pointed out by my hon. colleagues from Mercier and Saint-Jean, we were all extremely saddened, appalled and worried by the tragedies we have witnessed on a daily basis in the last three months.

I have been watching the situation in Haiti quite closely, since I live with someone who is from Haiti and who still has relatives in Les Cayes, a small city, albeit not so small compared to others.

I always keep in mind that the people of Haiti, just like the people of Quebec and of Canada, hope that the Haitian leaders and the international community can find a way to work together in order to restore conditions conducive to peace, prosperity and development to that country.

This is certainly an appropriate time to talk about this issue, since we all listened with great interest to the speech given by His Excellency, United Nations Secretary-General, Mr. Kofi Annan. For the first time in the history of the United Nations, this is a man who reached the highest ranks in the United Nations by being himself a product of the United Nations, since he was at the World Health Organization, in Geneva, for a long time.

While following this horror story that Haitians lived daily in the last few months, I was, as were many Quebeckers and Canadians, somewhat disappointed with Canada's position. I know that values of peace are part of our values as Canadians and Quebeckers. I also know that, in 1945, when 49 delegations met in San Francisco, there was in the Canadian delegation, of course, prime minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, but also two future prime ministers.

The Minister of Heritage will remember—not because she was present, because she is young, but because she knows history—that Louis St-Laurent was a member of the delegation. There was William Lyon Mackenzie King and also Mr. Pearson, two prime ministers who were going to play an extremely important role in this peacekeeper concept.

Kofi Annan's speech to parliamentarians reminded us how much hope is being pinned on Quebec and Canada to help maintain peace. Unfortunately, Haiti has been a dictatorship for far too long, since a dictator ruled the country from 1971 to 1990.

In 1991, President Aristide was elected for the first time. He was later overthrown. He returned to power in 1994-95. However, this is food for thought. We must think about how fragile democracy is in certain parts of the world, not that Haiti does not want democracy. It is important to make that distinction.

The question we can ask and reflect on concerns the fact that President Aristide left on February 29. One week later, the extent of Canada's participation in the peacekeeping mission was still unknown.

The Security Council is considered the executive branch of the United Nations. I hope that there will be a take-note debate—I am certain that my colleague from Mercier is calling wholeheartedly for one—on UN reform.

There is much to say. It is important to reflect. We believe in the UN but reform is needed.

I study part-time at the University of Ottawa. I am taking international public law. Half of the course focuses on international public law and the role of the UN. It is extremely important that, as parliamentarians, we can reflect on these issues.

Later, I will ask the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who is here, to talk a bit about why there was a one-week gap between the resignation of President Aristide and the decision about the extent of Canada's participation in this first interim force. The Security Council made its decision late Saturday night. There are 450 Canadians now assigned to this force, as well as logistical support of six helicopters. I understand that this interim international force, in accordance with chapter VII of the UN Charter, will be followed by a stabilization force that should, we hope, lay a solid foundation for peace.

We should also remember that official development aid, about which the Bloc Quebecois has asked many questions, definitely does not reflect our abilities, aspirations and generosity, and also does not reflect existing needs. Unless I am mistaken, the figures that I read suggest that Canada's contribution is diminishing somewhat. We are giving less in 2004 than we did 10 years ago. In the case of Haiti specifically, I read that, in 2002-03, Canada gave $28.85 million to Haiti. This is of course a significant contribution, but is it not our duty, as parliamentarians, to do more?

I was reading a letter sent by an organization in the riding of Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, which I represent here. It is the Development and Peace organization, which was founded in 1967 by the Conference of Catholic Bishops. This organization is located next to the Marguerite-De Lajemmerais school. It sent a letter to the Prime Minister, the minister responsible for the Francophonie and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who certainly had a chance to read it.

This letter is important because it reminds us that the primary responsibility of the interim force currently in Haiti is the disarmament process. There can be no peace and no plans for the future if the various factions do not lay down their arms. Of course, we know the expertise of Development and Peace, which was founded in 1967 and which is present in some 40 countries.

This organization told us about all the groups involved. There are of course the chimères, the former militias that unfortunately remained faithful to the ousted president; there are also the dissenting chimères, which regrouped in an army called the cannibal army and which were mostly present in the Gonaïves region, and there are of course the factions of Guy Philippe and Louis-Jodel Champlain.

I think it must be very clear that the mandate given to the interim force, as well as the mandate that will be given, at the end of the three months, to the peace stabilization force, must of course be focussed on disarmament. This is the first goal to achieve. Following disarmament, there will be, of course, the whole issue of rebuilding in association with civil society. There will also be the whole issue of education, food, supplies, public health. These issues will be part of the various goals of those who want to become involved in international development assistance, in public development aid. These are missions that will be very important for all those who believe in a future for Haiti.

I think that, as Quebeckers and Canadians, we must say clearly that this is not the end of our involvement, this is the beginning. This is not the end financially, since we will have to do more, and this is not the end logistically either.

I saw that, in the second stage of the proposed operation, there will be 5,000 peacekeepers. I see that Brazil is seeking command leadership. If I am not mistaken, we do not know exactly what the Canadian government involvement will be in this second stage.

My time is up. Mr. Chair, you have been so quiet that I thought you would let me continue. We will proceed with questions.

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9:05 p.m.

Toronto Centre—Rosedale Ontario


Bill Graham LiberalMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Chair, I hope you will permit me to answer a question that the hon. member asked me during his speech. He asked me how we can explain the—

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9:05 p.m.

The Chair

The question should be coming from the minister's side and the reply from the other. If there is a question, you may reply and then ask another question. We are clear on this. The minister has the floor.

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9:05 p.m.


Bill Graham Liberal Toronto Centre—Rosedale, ON

Mr. Chairman, I understood the game well. Since the opposition member asked me a question, I will ask him a question once again by asking him to answer the question that he asked me and, therefore, everyone will be very happy. We may proceed in this fashion.

The issue is very important. He asked me why it took one week to know the extent of Canada's contribution to the UN authorized force. I suggest to him, and I ask the member to respond, that this was totally reasonable.

First, Canada sent troops to save lives. We made a humanitarian contribution. The armed forces were there to get Canadians and other foreigners off the island and to save lives.

Then, an international and multilateral intervention was required. Planning was needed for this. Canada is playing its role. I hope the member will agree with me that we are playing a major role in this, an appropriate role that is in keeping with requests made by our colleagues, since this is a multilateral force in which mainly Americans, the French and Canadians, as well as others, are involved.

I hope that the member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve agrees with me that the important thing in this matter is that Canada is acting within a multilateral force, and not unilaterally. To me, at least, this explains why this force had to be planned in order to take into account the political situation and the forces involved.

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9:10 p.m.


Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Chair, I agree with the minister that in order for intervention to be effective in this conflict it had to be multilateral. No one thinks Canada should have acted alone.

I respectfully submit that it would not have been unreasonable for us to have expected the minister to act more quickly, especially since in other forums he firmly stated that Canada was ready. However, and he will correct me if I am wrong, the fact remains that chronologically, from the time President Aristide left on February 29 to the time it was determined we would send 450 soldiers and 6 CH-146 helicopters, a week went by.

Given the urgency of the situation, the minister should not take this personally, but in view of public policy and Canada's foreign policy, the timeframe was not reasonable and was too long. That does not mean Canada's contribution is not significant. It is a matter of humanitarian consideration. I know that a delegation, including the minister responsible for the Francophonie, went to Haiti. They had hoped for peace up to the last minute. I completely understand that situation.

However, leadership requires a certain degree of swiftness. Without being partisan—something that is quite beyond me—a week is too long given the urgency of the situation and the seed of hope the minister planted with some of the statements he made in a number of forums.

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9:10 p.m.

Etobicoke—Lakeshore Ontario


Jean Augustine LiberalMinister of State (Multiculturalism and Status of Women)

Mr. Chair, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to participate in the debate on Haiti.

Allow me to begin by saying that Canadians have been deeply moved by recent events in Haiti. As a member born in the Caribbean region, I am doubly moved by the situation.

Our Prime Minister has made it clear that Canada is determined to play a key role in multinational efforts to restore peace and security in Haiti. This is more than mere words. Strengthening democracy, ending conflict, bolstering human rights in the Americas are among Canada's key goals.

Haiti is important to the stability of the entire region. The Caribbean community Caricom continues to help build a peaceful resolution in Haiti. We support the earlier work of Caricom and the Organization of American States which serve as the foundations for the current efforts to rebuild Haiti's democratic institutions that will provide a better future for all nations.

Canada fully supports the Organization of American States' special mission in Haiti. On February 20, we announced an additional $5 million to the mission.

As a hemispheric neighbour, as a country that is home to people from many Haitians and as a fellow member of the family of francophone nations and the Organization of American States, Canada will continue to help Haitians build a peaceful and democratic society.

As a result of recent discussions with the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, our Prime Minister has pledged to send 450 Canadian soldiers to take part in peacekeeping efforts in Haiti. Just yesterday, the Prime Minister also committed to another $5 million in aid.

In the longer term a contingent of RCMP officers will train Haitian police. We are also providing food aid and humanitarian assistance, primarily through CIDA, the Canadian International Development Agency.

Canada has long played a role in working to improve the economic, social and political conditions in Haiti. I think we all know this. All these efforts underscore the deep ties between Canada and Haiti. They include sending peacekeeping troops in the early 1990s. As well, Canada has provided ongoing support that includes contributions to the special mission of the Organization of American States, and a significant amount of development assistance, as well as short term projects related to job creation and food aid.

We know we have a commitment and there is much more in selfless efforts by all of us over the years; selfless efforts of many dedicated Canadians who have gone to Haiti as individuals or with NGOs, non-governmental organizations. So many people are making a real difference in the lives of people through their volunteer work in Haiti.

Because Haiti is a country of great beauty and unfulfilled promise, a country that never fails to make a profound and lasting impression on those who visit. Amidst today's troubles let us not forget the dignity and the strength of the Haitian people who have inspired Canadians and others through their artistry, their ingenuity and their enduring humanity in face of enormous challenges.

Here in Canada, Haitians and Canadians of Haitian descent make an enormous contribution to our society in many spheres of endeavour, people like Bruny Surin, a member of Canada's gold medal men's relay team at the 1996 summer Olympics, or like Radio Canada's Michaelle Jean.

There are thousands of people of Haitian origin in Canada who have been concerned and troubled by what is happening in Haiti. They are eager to contribute and help restore a democratic and prosperous society in Haiti in a way that builds on their experience in Canada. Immigrants from Haiti have not only added to Canada's rich multicultural mix, they have brought skills and experiences that benefit our communities, our economy and our society.

Canada, as one of the world's most multicultural, multi-ethnic countries, places great value in our relationship with the world beyond our borders. Why is this so? It is because we welcome newcomers from every corner of the globe to our doorstep. We take pride in our cultural diversity and we encourage newcomers to retain their cultural identity. Counting more than 200 ethnic origins among us, Canada is a microcosm of the world.

In recognition of this reality, 33 years ago, the Government of Canada adopted a multiculturalism policy aimed at creating a society in which multicultural heritage would be valued and all Canadians, regardless of their racial, ethnic or religious background, would have a voice and the opportunity to participate fully. Every Canadian is equal under the law and has the right to fully participate in our society. This right is so important to Canadians that it is enshrined in law in the Canadian Multiculturalism Act.

While policies and laws are important, it is the value we Canadians place on respect that will make full participation for all a reality. As individuals, communities, institutions and governments, we must practise respect every day at work, in our neighbourhoods, in our schools and in our homes with our families. Of course the outcome of this has a direct impact on our communities, our institutions and our society. It also has a direct impact on how we regard our place in the world and how others view Canada.

I will quote from the Speech from the Throne recently delivered. It states:

--peace and freedom, human rights and the rule of law, diversity, respect and democracy are the values that form the foundation of Canada's experience and our success. They are, in truth, potentially our most valuable export.

Canada cares deeply about our neighbours in the hemisphere. We care deeply about the cause of peace and the right of every human being to live in dignity and security. As a proudly multicultural society, we care about the hopes and the dreams of all of those around the world who are seeking a more prosperous, peaceful and secure future for their children and for themselves.

This is more than a vision. It is a matter of real commitment on the part of the Government of Canada. Our vision, our commitment, our enduring adherence to the values and ideals that our country holds dear compel Canadians to deeply empathize with the Haitian people. As such we are determined to redouble our efforts to accompany Haitians as they build a stable, prosperous and democratic society. It is in this spirit that this evening we are speaking to the aspirations of the Haitian people.

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9:20 p.m.

Toronto Centre—Rosedale Ontario


Bill Graham LiberalMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Chair, I just want to perhaps use the House's time to draw on the minister's personal expertise.

The minister comes from the Caribbean region herself. She has family there. She has experience there. She has deep roots in the Caribbean community in her own city of Toronto. The government has sought to work closely with CARICOM as a way of recognizing that it is the people of the Caribbean community themselves who best can contribute to Haitians making their political system work better.

This is complicated because there are British traditions, French traditions and other traditions in the Caribbean. The minister spoke movingly about these issues. Could she help us from her own experience as to how she sees us working with the CARICOM nations as a way of helping Haiti come through to a political culture which will enable us to solve their problems?